Jean-Paul Belmondo, an undisputed star of France's New Wave cinema after his breakthrough performance in Jean-Luc Godard's "Breathless" in 1959, has died, the French news agency AFP reported on Monday. He was 88.
A charismatic actor who often performed his own daring stunts, Belmondo switched in the 1960s to mainstream films and became one of France's leading comedy and action heroes.
His decision to pursue a career in commercial cinema and to shun the art houses led to criticism that he had wasted his undisputed talent - something he always denied.
"When an actor is successful, people turn their back on him and say that he has taken the easy way out, that he doesn't want to make an effort or take any risks," Belmondo once said.
"But if it was so easy to fill cinemas, then the film world would be in much better health than it is. I don't think I would have stayed in the limelight for so long if I was doing any old rubbish. People aren't that stupid."